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Alba Iulia
Monday, August 10, 2020

Polish President Andrzej Duda fights for re-election in closer-than-expected vote

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While Duda remains comfortably in the lead, analysts say that will change in a second round in two weeks, as opposition voters whose support was split in the first round gather around Trzaskowski.

“It will be close,” said Malgorzata Bonikowska, president of the Warsaw Center for International Relations. “People vote for two different poles. They are like fire and water.”

Voting has the potential to reshape Poland’s relations with Europe. Duda is a figurehead of the Law and Justice political program that brought him into collision with the European Union. Brussels accuses the government of threatening the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

Meanwhile, Trzaskowski, a former member of the European Parliament who speaks seven languages, is known to have more friendly relations with Brussels.

Speaking at a jubilant event on election night, Trzaskowski said the voters’ choice would be between “open Poland” and “seeking an enemy”, with a president trying to divide.

At his event, Duda argued that his advantage was “huge” and said that the choice was between “development” and a deterioration in the lives of normal Poles under opposition. Social benefits for families have been a major pillar of law and justice policy.

The vote had been scheduled for May, the law and justice pushing to maintain it despite the pandemic, because any delay could harm his chances in the context of the resulting economic crisis and the scrutiny of how the government managed the epidemic. But he was forced to delay the insistence of one of his coalition partners.

As the polls tightened, Duda fell back on anti-LGBT rhetoric in an apparent effort to galvanize his base, but his comments caused a backlash even in firmly Catholic Poland.

Law and Justice officials said they hoped Duda’s visit to Washington last week would increase his chances of being re-elected. But the trip did not meet initial expectations on the Polish side, with no firm details announced about the movement of American troops in Poland.

Warsaw has lobbied for the United States to strengthen its security presence in Poland, which officials say is even more important given the United States’ announcement of the withdrawal of 9,500 soldiers from Germany.

Speaking during Duda’s visit to Washington, Trump said he thought the incumbent would be “very successful.”

Dariusz Kalan in Warsaw contributed to this report.

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